ESRC are introducing changes to the funding thresholds for their Standard Grants scheme. They currently accept applications between £200,000 and £2 million. Under the new arrangements the lower threshold will rise to £350,000 and the upper threshold will be reduced to £1 million at Full Economic Costs. These changes will come into effect from 1 July 2015. Current thresholds will continue to operate for any application submitted up to 30 June 2015.
The changes are a response to the pattern of demand that is being placed on the standard grants scheme by the social science community. The average value of a standard grant application has steadily increased and is now close to £500,000, so they have adjusted the centre of gravity of the scheme to reflect applicant behaviour.
The changes are also a response to feedback from their Grant Assessment Panels who have found it increasingly difficult to assess and compare the value of applications ranging from £200,000 to £2 million, where there is variable level of detail on project design, costs and deliverables. This issue has become more acute as the number of grant applications over £1 million has steadily increased over the last two years. Narrowing the funding range of the scheme will help to maintain the robustness of the assessment process, ensuring all applications get a fair hearing.
They anticipate that these changes will reduce the volume of applications they receive through the Standard Grants scheme and will increase overall success rates for those who do apply as well as reducing the peer review requirements they need to place on the social science community.
In making these changes they remain committed to the funding of longer, larger responsive grants. They intend to introduce an annual open competition for grants between £1 million and £2.5 million and are currently considering how this will operate alongside their existing Centres and Large Grants Competition.